Martin W

    from Birdlife International (news release):

    Outbreaks in Nigeria suggest controls on international poultry movements
    are widely flouted

    The recent outbreak of H5N1 avian ‘flu in Nigeria show that poultry
    movements can cause the deadly virus to jump across countries and even
    continents. With poor enforcement of controls already blamed for
    outbreaks in China, South East Asia and Turkey, the Nigerian outbreak
    further demonstrates that lapses in biosecurity are the major reason for
    avian ‘flu’s continuing spread around the world.

    Whilst the precise nature of the outbreak is unknown, it seems more than
    likely that the virus arrived through infected poultry brought into the
    country in defiance of Nigeria’s import controls. Speaking at a press
    conference, Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, Adamu Bello, said “Birds
    come every day from China, Turkey, into Nigeria, and from Europe and
    also from Latin America. So Nigeria is exposed. Illegal importation of
    poultry by people who have farms, bringing in poultry from places and
    smuggling them in…could also have been a cause.”

    Mr Bello was also reported by Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper group as
    saying: “We think someone may have imported or smuggled in contaminated

    Large scale commercial poultry farms need a regular supply of day old
    chicks, and this has created a global trade in supplying the industry in
    countries such as Nigeria, which are unable to undertake all the stages
    of commercial production. Contesting the ban on imports of day-old stock
    earlier in 2005, a poultry industry spokesman said “Nigeria does not
    possess the temperature, weather conditions and much-needed technology
    to produce Grand Parent stock (day old chickens) now, which is the life
    wire of poultry business.”

    “Globalisation has turned the chicken into the world’s number one
    migratory bird species” said Leon Bennun, Director of Science of
    BirdLife International. “Movements of chickens around the world take
    place 365 days a year, unlike the seasonal migrations of wild birds”,
    Bennun added.

    “It is important that strict biosecurity measures are imposed to stop
    further spread not only within Nigeria but also to neighbouring
    countries”, says Bennun.

    However BirdLife is concerned that the authorities in Nigeria receive
    appropriate support and advice from the international agencies managing
    avian ‘flu and that resources are targeted effectively.

    It is extraordinary, given the strong circumstantial evidence
    implicating illegal poultry movements, and the repeated opinion of
    Agriculture Minister Bello, that some representatives of the UN Food and
    Agriculture Organisation have announced that wild migratory birds are
    the source of the outbreak.

    One senior FAO representative has even been quoted in the press as
    saying: “If it’s not wild birds, it will be difficult to understand.
    There is no real trade between the Middle East and Asia and Nigeria.”
    Yet according to the websites of China’s embassy in Nigeria and their
    Ministry of Commerce,”the trade volume between the two countries in 2003
    reached US$ 1.86 billion,” and has continued to grow so that “Nigeria is
    now China’s second largest export market and fourth largest trade
    partner in Africa”.

    Nigeria is a major oil producing nation, and with around 25 percent of
    the population of Africa within its borders to provide a market for
    imports, it is increasingly being sought out as a trading partner. The
    largest-scale industrial poultry production in Africa is concentrated
    within Nigeria’s northern states. If the global trade in poultry is
    spreading avian ‘flu, it was predictable that it would hit Nigeria
    before other African countries.

    “Perhaps the time has come for an independent inquiry into the spread of
    H5N1 over the past few years,” says Bennun. “This could help the world
    to learn lessons on what could have been done differently to halt the
    spread of the disease and help to stop further outbreaks.”